Tuesday, March 6, 2012

District court rules against Freshwater’s appeal

The 5th District Court of Appeals in Ohio issued a decision Monday affirming a lower court’s decision to uphold the firing of former eighth-grade science teacher John Freshwater.

The appeal to the district court came after Knox County Court of Common Pleas Judge Otho Eyster ruled against Freshwater in October of 2011. In that prior decision, the county judge did not cite any evidence or applicable law to support upholding the firing.

Freshwater’s appeal to the district court argued that Eyster’s decision to uphold the firing “without the examination of any factual issues disputed by Appellant or any analysis of his First and Fourteenth Amendment claims, constitutes an abuse of discretion.”

The district court explained in a written opinion that it is very limited in how it is allowed to review cases brought before it. According to the three-judge panel, “unless this court determines that the trial court abused its discretion, we are compelled to affirm its decision.”

The court then cited a prior decision that defined “abuse of discretion” as being “an attitude that is unreasonable, arbitrary or unconscionable.”

After having provided multiple citations explaining the limited role of the district court and the concept of abuse of discretion, the court then skipped reviewing the decision of the county judge and instead proceeded to review the recommendation given by state administrative hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd.  

The district court apparently made the switch to evaluating the reasoning process of Shepherd instead of Eyster because Eyster did not show his reasoning process in his decision.

Ultimately, the district court decided to suppose that Shepherd’s “memorandum” could have served as the basis for Eyster’s decision and thus showed a reasoning process that, in the opinion of the district court, was not an abuse of discretion.

Eyster, however, never specifically stated that the document written by Shepherd was the basis of his decision.

(See here for a copy of the district court’s decision. PDF.)

(The district court's three-judge panel was comprised of W. Scott Gwin, William B. Hoffman and Sheila G. Farmer.)

Does it matter that Eyster did not provide his reasoning process?:

According to one law review article, a judge failing to provide his reasoning process does create “the appearance of arbitrariness”:

“Justice must not only be done, it must appear to be done. The authority of the federal judiciary rests upon the trust of the public and the bar. Courts that articulate no reasons for their decisions undermine that trust by creating the appearance of arbitrariness.” (“An Evaluation of Limited Publication in the United States Courts of Appeals: The Price of Reform” by William L. Reynolds and William M. Richman, The University of Chicago Law Review, [1981].)

Another law review article took the position that, “In our law... the exercise of a power to speak authoritatively as an interpreter carries with that an obligation to explain the grounds upon which the interpreter gives the authoritative judgment.” (Textualism, Constitutionalism, and the Interpretation of Federal Statutes” by Jerry L. Mashaw, William & Mary Law Review, [1991].)

(The above two quotes are from the website nonpublication.com.)

More information about the U.S. court system:

There are a few folks out there who think the U.S. courts could use some improving, among them are people writing for the following websites:




As always, the views and opinions expressed on sites linked to are those of the individuals expressing them and are not necessarily those of AccountabilityInTheMedia.com.

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